History of Radford
Radford was named for Dr. John B. Radford. Dr. Radford’s home Arnheim was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. Radford was originally a small village of people that gathered near the New River, which was a major draw to travelers for fresh water and food while traveling west. The town had a major population increase in 1854 when the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad was installed. A large depot was placed at Lovely Mount because of its strategic positioning between the eastern and western parts of the state. The actual station was not on Lovely Mountain, located on the southwestern side of town, but Lovely Mount was a known mountain and naming the station this would help people to remember the location of the depot. The Railroad Depot caused the population of Radford to boom. It also caused a major increase in the amount of trade and business in the area. Radford became a railroad town. The original name for Radford was Lovely Mount because of the location of the depot; the name was changed in 1891 to Radford. Radford, or at least the train station area, was called Central Depot because of its central location halfway between Lynchburg and Bristol, Virginia of the original railroad, the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad (later the Norfolk and Western Railway).
From 1900 to 1930, many companies came to Radford, including an ice company, a creamery, milling companies, piping, and preserving plants. In 1913, Radford was selected to become home to State Normal School, a women’s college. The school would later, in 1924, become Radford College and then in 1979 would be renamed Radford University. The presence of a college brought even more attention to Radford, causing even more population growth. In 1940–1941 the US Military decided to build a manufacturing plant for gunpowder and other ammunition needed by the military. Thus the Radford Army Ammunition Plant, or the “Arsenal” as it would come to be called, joined the railroad and Lynchburg Foundry as major employers creating a huge influx in population. Many families moved to the area. Housing for the Arsenal was built in specific areas of town and these neighborhoods still exist today; Monroe Terrace, Radford Village, and Sunset Village. Today these are Radford’s main residential neighborhoods. The railroad ceased passenger service through Radford 1971 as personal transportation moved to the fairly new interstate highway system and the airways. However, the railroad route through Radford is still a major component of Norfolk Southern Railway’s Roanoke to Bristol route. But, Radford no longer needed the railroad passenger service to survive.
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